Automatic Voter Registration is Great, But We Need More

On January 1st of 2016 people who get a driver’s license or California ID and who are eligible to vote will be automatically registered. While this is a huge step toward getting people registered it isn’t a guaranteed way to get people to the polls. Voter registration is only part of the battle. Specifically when it comes to college students, most of whom do not know that they must reregister every time they move. Younger Americans move often and though the new automatic voter registration policy will initially get people registered, the next step and challenge will be to educate people on how to make sure their voter registration is up to date and that they know their rights as voters.

When so many are disillusioned with the political process, reinforcing the message of your vote being your voice is critical. Each County Elections Office could work with high school and college campuses in order to educate students. Elected officials should regularly be asked to come to classes and speak about the importance of civic participation not just in terms of voting but in their local communities. Each college campus should remove the limitation from voting by having a campus day off to allow students to go to the polls. There should be opportunities made available to students on local commissions to help them engage in their communities. All of these efforts would create a dialogue which would prompt action and allow more access to the polls.

Furthermore, voting is not the end goal. Participation in the political process does not end when a ballot is cast. Hold elected officials accountable. Be vocal about what you need as a community member. Elected officials are supposed to represent you and that goes beyond the ballot box.

About the Author

Sarah Funes has been an advocate for people with disabilities since being appointed to the disability and the youth commission in San Mateo County in 2007. Since 2010 she has been working on voting rights and legislation with the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. She is very excited to continue her work to educate voters on their rights and allowing opportunities for young adults to get civically engaged. In addition to being a student and advocate, Sarah is an avid 49er fan, enjoys spending time with friends and family, and loves Ike’s Place in San Francisco.